Early in my career as a first year teacher of students with autism, the thought of a student with severe behavior problems was a bit disconcerting, but that was before I knew Alex. I first got to know Alex as his early education teacher. I soon found my role changing as I obtained temporary custody of him that year while he was in my class. There's a book entitled A is for Autism. Well, I prefer to believe A is for Alex, and……
A is for Acceptance. The first day Alex went into kindergarten by himself without me as his primary teacher was hard for me. It was difficult to let go and let the new teacher take over.
That's when I made the "All About Alex" book to show that he was a student with a lot of potential and my son. I wanted his teachers to see past his autism and see his amazing learning capabilities. As I was writing this, I realized that my real purpose was to get his teachers to see past his label.
A is for Ability. Alex is now in sixth grade and able to go through the day fully included! He makes As and Bs and has lots of fun. He loves dinosaurs and can tell you almost anything you want to know about them.
A is for Advocacy. Not only am I Alex's advocate, but I'm also an advocate for all students. We are our student's best advocates. We can help set the stage for their success.
A is for Achieving his potential. Recently Alex told me he wants to marry, have a family and drive a fast car when he grows up. He’s constantly talking about what he’s going to do when he grows up.
A is for Appreciation. It's hard to hear criticism. I think other teachers need to realize how difficult it is to hear criticism about Alex. He is my son. I am his Mom. I have a newfound appreciation for other parents. I can relate in a different way and can share stories, offer guidance, and so forth. I try to give them hope in order to offer them encouragement.
A is for Aspiration - achieving his hopes and dreams. I want to see Alex live out his choices when he grows up. He's told us he wants to be a trash truck driver. Every time the trash truck comes through our neighborhood, Alex runs to see it and says in a very excited manner, "It's a trash truck, Mom!"
Any profession he chooses will be fine with me because it would be fine for Alex.
A is for Adoption. Today, Alex is a well-behaved student in the sixth grade, fully included, and is the youngest member of my family! It warms my heart when people tell me how much Alex looks like me or my other children – and he does! He also has our sense of humor and is very witty. Everyone says Alex is so blessed to have us, and that we've made a difference in his life. We are the ones who are blessed – the ones who have been changed.
"A" may be the first letter in autism, but to me "A" is for every student's ability, appreciation of life, aspirations, and achieving their hopes and dreams, and A is for Alex!